COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways.  It is caused by a virus called Coronavirus.

Vaccination against COVID-19

The practice is currently hosting 2nd dose vaccination clinics on Thursday and Friday afternoons. On these days the practice will be operating an emergency only service and we apologise for the inconvenience that this may cause. 

Vaccination is the most important thing you can do to protect your community against serious illnesses.  When enough people get vaccinated, it’s harder for a disease to spread to those who can’t have vaccines.

We know many people are interested in the COVID-19 vaccination and we urge you not to contact the pratice and to follow the link below to book a vaccination online.

An online booking form for COVID-19 vaccinations to be given outside the practice (multiple sites) has now been set up.  At present multiple age groups can book their vacciantion online.  You will need your H&C number which can be found on your medical card and other clincial documents eg: hospital letters.  If you do not have access to your H&C number, click any of the following links for instructions on how to obtain it:

 If you do not have access to the internet, you can telephone 0300 200 7813. 

Free wheelchair friendly and covid safe transport is available to transport you to and from your vaccination appointment within Newry and Mourne.  To book transport please telephone 028 302 65635 or email bg.nmct@gmail.com

Advice for patients

Ensure you regularly wash your hands with warm soapy water and regularly wash down highly touched areas e.g. door handles or mobile phones (list is not exclusive)

Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

You should only leave the house for 1 of 4 reasons:

  1. shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  2. one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  3. any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  4. travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home

Important

These 4 reasons are exceptions – even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.  Ideally if you must leave your home, you should do so alone.

Avoid social media and try to keep a healthy and positive mind-set.  There is a lot of false information circulating online so we would advise our patients to only read content from officially governed websites with guaranteed factual information and statistics.  

 

Symptoms and what to do

Do not leave your home if you have either:

1. a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

2. a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

3. Change to your sense of smell or taste or no sense of smell or taste at all (this means you can not smell or taste anything) 

 

To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home and look after yourself as if you would any other cold or flu  while ensuring  self isolation for 7 days (scroll down for tips on managing coronavirus at home).

 Calling your GP surgery is only necessary if you have

  • an existing health condition which feels impacted by the virus
  • problems with your immune system
  • very serious symptoms

Again, do not attend the surgery. Please telephone for a triage appointment over the phone with a member of our team?

 

How to get tested for COVID-19

Members of the public can now be tested for COVID-19.  Please see this information website about testing.

 

Social Distancing, Self Isolation, Shielding and Face Coverings (Masks)

Advice of what these mean for you and your family can be found (Word document).

Patients deemed to be Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) have been issued with shielding letters.  Updated guidance as of February 2021 can be found here.

Shielding easement letters were posted to all relevant patients by Friday 3rd July 2020.  In December 2020 patients with Down Syndrome was added to the shielding group.  These letters were posted 15.12.2020.     If you have not received a letter but feel you can't go to work for shielding reasons; then we would recommend you ask your employer for a referral to occupational health.  We will not accept requests for individual letters. 

It is recommended that you should use face coverings in particular circumstances - short periods in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible. You must wear a face covering on public transport.  It is so important that you do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection provided by wearing a face covering.  It is essential that everyone continues to:

  • Practice social distancing as much as humanly possible
  • Wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day
  • ‘Catch it, kill it, bin it’ when they sneeze or cough

Goverence guidance states that YOU DO NOT need a letter from your GP exempting the use of face coverings. Detailed information on face coverings and COVID-19.

Instructions on how to make your own face covering.

 

Medication Sick Day Guidelines

When you are unwell with vomiting, diarrhoea, fevers or shaking you should stop taking any of the medications listed below:

ACE inhibitors (Name ending in "pril") eg Lisinopril, Perindopril, Ramipril
ARBs (Name ending in "sartan") eg Losartan, Candesartan, Valsartan
NSAIDs  Anti-inflammatory pain killers eg Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Naprozen
Diuretics  Known as fluid tablets eg Furosemide, Spironolactone, Indapamide, Bendroflumethiazide
Metformin Treatment for Diabetics eg Glucophagel, Sukkarto SR , Metformin

Restart your medication when you are well again (24 - 48 hours of eating and drinking normally).  If in doubt contact your community pharmacist or GP team for advice.

 

Tips on Managing Corona Virus at home

  1. Early recognition - any new (or onset within the last 7 days) continuous cough or fever is possible Coronavirus.
  2. Don’t panic - most people will be able to self manage without contacting their GP or 111. Everyone needs to follow simple steps to reduce their symptoms and avoid infecting others.
  3. Get educated  - NHS inform  will help you assess your symptoms. It is updated daily so has the most up to date advice. If you are short of breath (i.e. not able to walk up upstairs or having difficulty speaking in sentences) then phone your GP practice. DO NOT go to the GP practice or A&E. Only phone 999 if you feel it is an emergency.
  4. Self-isolate  - stop the virus spreading by self-isolating for 7 days from the onset of symptoms and follow information on the NHS website (link on our home page) on how to do this. Effective self-isolation will stop your friends and family getting infected.
  5. Rest, paracetamol and fluids are crucial especially with fever - aim for a minimum of 10x 300ml mugs of fluid a day. Avoid alcohol. Water, diluting juice or fruit juice are ideal.  Aim for regular clear or mildly yellow urine and to be able to pee every 4 hours except when asleep at night. If you have not passed urine in over 4 hours, have dark yellow urine, feel thirsty or dizzy on standing then there is a high chance you are dehydrated and you need to drink lots more as a priority. See this hydration information website.
  6. Food is less important than fluids - if able to eat then have lots of fruit and vegetables as these will help your immune system fight the infection.
  7. Stop certain medications - some drugs are unsafe when you are unwell, especially ones to lower your blood pressure, and anti-inflammatories.
  8. Get support - call family / friends / community members and ask them to deliver supplies. People in the same house as you must self isolate if they have no symptoms for 14 days.
  9.  For children follow advice from the excellent When Should I Worry Website.
  10.  You can return to work after 7 days if you’re symptoms have improved. Contact the GP practice if you are not improving after 7 days.

For tips on looking after your mental health and general well being please click here

 

Support for Diabetic Patients

A Diabetes Helpline has been set up for those living with Diabetes in Northern Ireland and will be open every day from 9am - 3pm including weekends.  You can telephone 028 9536 0600 or email diabetic.helpline@hscni.net

A great wealth of information for both Type I and Type II diabetic patients can be found on the Diabetes website. This site is updated daily and will offer the most recent advice and support available.

Type I diabetics can seek advice through Twitters Diabetes 101.  This page is manned by leading Diabetologists and DSNs and they are taking questions daily. 

 

Support for parents and carers - help to keep schools safe and stop the spread of COVID-19

When you child is ill or injured it can be difficult deciding on whether to call your GP, NHS111 or your local A&E department.  During this uncertain time when the government is telling everyone to stay at home it can be confusing to know what the right thing to do is.  If you find your self in this situation click here for guidance on what to do next.

Apps for mental health and emotional well-being are also a great tool for parents. Details of everal useful and supportive apps.

It can be very difficult understanding all the rules and guidance concerning children and when to keep them off school during COVID-19. Government guidance re sickness / isolating / testing and when to return to school.

 

Support for people caring for a dying relative at home with COVID-19 infection

This guidance has been set up to support those who are caring for a relative at home who is dying from the COVID-19 infection.

 

Support for Cancer Patients or their Carers

If you have any questions or concerns about how you or someone you care for with cancer is going to cope with Cancer, the southern trust MacMillan Information service is still in operation.  You can contact them by telephoning 028 37 561 001 or alternatively you can email them on macmillaninfosupport@southerntrust.hscni.net 

 

Bereavement Support

Support, connection and comfort when someone is bereaved is very important.  COVID-19 has placed restrictions around mourning and funeral rituals which can add to a sense of loss and isolation.  A bereavement helpline has been set up and is operated by professionals with knowledge, experience and insight into grief and loss.  Telephone 028 375 67990.

 

Support for patients with a Learning Disability or Down Syndrome

In November 2020, a letter was issued to all patients with Down Syndrome.  This contained useful guidance and support for patients.  Access a copy of the letter (Word document).

 

General Support

If none of the above support networks are appropriate to you we recommend you download the here2help app.  This contains a full list of service providers and support networks / advice.

 

Hypertension Management during COVID-19

To ensure we can manage our hypertensive patients and offer advice regarding blood pressure medication and the need for blood tests, we are encouraging the purchase of blood pressure monitor’s. Your readings can be recorded, and then emailed or dropped off at the practice.

Please see our Hypertension letter for patients’ home measurements (Word document), where you can record your results.

 

Contraception and Sexual Health during COVID-19

If you would like to talk to someone in CASH (Contraception and Sexual Health) please telephone 028 37 562 200.  Alternatively you can email queries.cash@southerntrust.hscni.netFurther information on relationships, contraception and sexual health during COVID-19.

 

Changes to Practice Policies and Procedures

We have had to change how we function to maintain the increasing workload rate while aiding Infection Control and reducing the risk of infection to our staff and patients.   We appreciate your co-operation and understanding while navigating these changes.

 

Appointments

All routine appointments have been suspended.  If you have a medical need you will be accessed via telephone triage.  Please ensure we have an up to date telephone number to avoid delays in your call back for triaging?  Our appointment lines are open every day from 8am - 12pm. 

 

Prescriptions

Prescriptions can be ordered online, via telephone or as a last resort, reorder forms can be posted through the letter box at the front door. All prescriptions will be collected on your behalf by the pharmacy of your choice (within Newry & Mourne).  If you do not already have a collection arrangement in place, please notify our reception staff who will be happy to facilitate this request.

Please allow 48 hours for prescriptions to be processed By The PRACTICE.  We would kindly ask that patients refrain from telephoning the surgery to ask if their prescription has been processed. 

The local pharmacies are under immense pressure and need time to make up your prescription.  Please allow an ADDITIONAL 48 hours before attempting to collect / arrange delivery from your pharmacy.  

If you order medication please ensure you collect it!  Our local pharmacies have reported they are low on storage space due to the  back log of processed prescriptions waiting to be collected.  

If your medication involves monitoring (e.g., blood testing or regular BP checks) a member of our team will assess you recent readings and contact you if necessary.  If you have access to a BP machine at home please email your most recent readings to prescriptions.z00537@gp.hscni.net  Please ensure you include your full name, DOB and an up to date telephone number in case we need to speak with you?

We do not have Asthma rescue packs (this is false social media information).  Any patient eligible for a rescue pack will have already been offered one as part of their treatment regime. 

We will not be issuing inhalers to patients who have not been prescribed them in the past 6 months, unless a clinical need has been confirmed by a GP.  This is in line with guidance from the Health Board regarding stock piling. 

 

Sickness Certificates

Ongoing / Continuing sickness certificates (unrelated to Corona Virus) can be ordered over the telephone and collected from the front door at 2.15pm the next working day.  A sickness certificate for a new medical condition (unrelated to Corona virus) must be triaged by a GP over the telephone. If necessary the GP may ask you to attend the surgery for further examination / assessment.  

Patients requiring a sickness certificate relating to the Corona Virus should telephone NHS 111.

If you are following isolation guidelines and your employer is insisting on a letter from your surgery then please print off the letter below and tick the isolation option that is applicable to you? Individual requests will not be accepted. (also refer to shielding guidance above). 

Letters for employers can be downloaded here

 

Telephone Service

Phone lines will close daily at 4pm (1pm on a Wednesday).  The volume of calls has significantly increased so we would advise our patients to:

  • Utilise our online services
  • Be sensible and redirect non medical queries to another service provider 
  • Be understanding if it takes longer to get through to reception. 

The practice team will still be reachable in the event of a medical emergency by telephoning the emergency telephone number 028 302 68888.

The emergency telephone number must only be used for medical emergencies.  Please do not use this number for any other reason as your request will be refused.  This line must be kept free at all times.

Please have patience and be respectful when speaking with our staff.  Our practice operates a Zero Tolerance Policy on the abuse of our staff and any patient seen to breach this policy will be addressed accordingly and or removed from our practice register.

 

Travel Advice

Our practice does not issue travel advice.  If you are concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 on your existing travel plans, contact your airline provider, tour operator, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers as applicable.  Please do not block phone lines seeking confirmation to travel or for letters to support travel claims. Our practice follows guidance from the Public Health Agency (PHA) so please direct all letter requests to them as our surgery can-not facilitate such requests.

 

Midwifery / Antenatal Services and Support

The midwife will not be holding clinics in the surgery.  If you need to speak to or see a midwife, then please telephone them directly on 028 37 56 2095. 

 

Other

Non urgent medical requests are not a priority and patients should know that such requests will take a lot longer to be processed.  We would like to thank you in advance for your patience and co-operation as we navigate through such difficult times.

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